Toys / Toy Collecting

Optimus Prime Dodge Ram Alternator


By Hervé St.Louis
August 20, 2006 - 11:03

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Following Hasbro and partner Takara into re-imagining Transformers as modern cars, comes the Dodge Ram Optimus Prime action figure. Although there was a 20th anniversary Optimus Prime action figure that fit more or less with the Transformers’ Alternator line (Binaltech in Japan), the Dodge Ram version is the first one that officially is an Alternator Transformers.

I think that this decision, prompted by Takara, the Japanese manufacturer who produces the original moulds for the Transformers’ toys, is bad. This figure should not have been Optimus Prime. A better and suitable choice would have been Iron Hide, Hoist, Trailbreaker or Kup. They dubbed this figure Optimus Prime to ensure it would sell. Instead of staying true to the Alternator’s theme of producing characters that look like the originals from the first generation of Transformers, they have opted for a quick buck.

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The alternate figure, called the Nemesis is also uninspired. It’s a black Optimus Prime clone working for the Decepticons. They could have favoured Motormaster, the leader of the Stunticons, and a trailer truck similar to the original Optimus Prime. Nope, they went for the quick buck. Had they made the Dodge Ram SRT-10, as Ironhide, Kup, Hoist or Trailbreaker, the manufacturers would have had far more possibilities for variants based on the truck’s design.
 
Likeness

Optimus Prime has been a truck or a tank-like robot and even a small sports car in some incarnation. The Alternator mode is different from any other Optimus Prime toy or the classic look of the character with the wide torso formed from the cab unit of a trailer. Instead, Optimus is a pick up truck whose general look is similar to Trailbreaker. However, the marine blue and bright red colour scheme of the figure fits the classic look of the character. Optimus Prime’s head is also an exact replica of the familiar one used in the cartoon series and comic books.

Robot Mode Sculpt

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The Robot mode does not make the best use of all of the truck’s parts. Much of the robot’s body is hidden under the truck’s shelf. The entire front bumper is a mass of parts that hang when in robot mode. The cabin’s seats become extra attachments on Optimus forearms, although they are shaped regularly.

The lower body of Optimus Prime does use the truck’s part to better use, although they serve as outer shelves instead of actual body parts. The torso is the hood of the truck, but the front part of the hood does not integrate smoothly within the Transformer’s design. Again it hangs there and can be folded or not. The legs of Optimus Prime afford little mobility and look jam together even though the figure has knee articulations. You have to split the legs apart for it to stand up properly. I would have preferred a design where the legs were longer and not so packed.

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Looking at Optimus from several viewpoints, we can’t distinguish his face or body parts easily. He’s just a big mass of plastics. As his robot mode does not use the truck parts extensively in its design, it’s not optimized. Thus, it is not a slim nor elegant robot mode overall. For characters like Hoist or Trailbreaker who were always packing lots of extra pieces and gears, this robot mode would have been suitable. For Optimus who is tall and, heroic looking and lean, this design is flawed.

Car Mode Sculpt

The Dodge - SRT10 that designers used for Optimus Prime is the two door cab version. The sculpt is almost accurate to the real truck. One small detail is the divided lover air vents in the front of the truck. It’s a slick and nice car that looks aerodynamic and hides the Transformers’ parts very well. When showing the truck to people, they did not know it was a Transformer until told. I would have liked a hook and a rope allowing the truck to haul other alternators behind it.

Transformation

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Part of the fun of a good Transformer’s toy, is the transformation process. Like all new Alternator figures, it takes from 45 minutes to an hour to transform the car into a robot. The real test of whether the transformation is easy or not comes after as you transform the robot back into a truck. The process was quick and this time, there were no needs the instruction booklet. In fact even during the first transformation from truck to robot, the process was smooth, compared with other Alternator figures. But then, Optimus was the fourth Alternator I was transforming within a 24-hour period so, I guess I had the proper training.

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The major transformation hurdle is what to do with the grey torso part of the robot, hidden underneath the truck. It doesn’t move, yet everything is attached to it. Getting the arms outside of their fixed position into a mobile pose is also difficult as there is little room to manoeuver around the frame of the hood, just above the front wheels. Another problem is what to do with the hood and adjusting the back of the cab’s window without scratching it.

Although Optimus Prime’s tibias’ have parts that rotate vertically, it is easy to transform his legs. In fact that process was quick and did not require to read the transformation booklet. The transformation backward was fast, although the real hurdle at this point was in the fine touches. I could get the basic truck look right in less than ten minutes. However, adjusting all the parts was not simple. The problem was with fitting the hood properly and putting back the transforming engines, which are really Optimus Prime’s gun, back.

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It took me a while to fit everything nicely. There are pressure points and pegs that must be adjusted properly. Once all the parts are aligned, the truck will hold on tight and look great. One thing that cause me problems, was pushing the front wheels’ frame apart to make it wide enough to peg into the side of the front hood. There were also some problems with closing the doors properly because Optimus Prime’s fist must be twisted the right way for the doors to close well. The palms must face the ground. If not, the doors won’t close as easily.

Paint

Hasbro favours creating its figures in the base plastics with the original hues. The few painted parts were Optimus Prime’s head, his forearms, wheels’ caps, thighs and the top of the cab. There are a few decals al over the truck and some details, such as door handles, painted in black. Because the base plastic for most of the figure is red, the black paint is not thick enough to cover that. A little rubbing will cause the paint to fade. There were paint bleeds in Optimus’s face. The front bumper and top of the cab give of a metallic hue, while not been traditional car paints. Hasbro should have painted all the red parts of the truck this way as the colour clashes with the regular plastic.

Scale

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As Ironhide, Hoist or Kup, Optimus Prime would have fit perfectly with the other Alternator action figures. But as the leader of the Autobots, this action figure is too small, and in some cases, shorter than his fellow Transformers. The truck, though is based on a 1/24 scale model.

Stability

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As a transformed robot, Optimus prime is stable and won’t fall. However, there are no proper heels to his foot making him fall back on the split back doors of the truck mode to maintain balance. As the back doors are not parallel to Optimus Prime’s feet, he cannot stand upright easily and leans backward all the time.

Articulation

Like I mentioned above the knees’ articulations are limited with gears getting in the way. However, the figure’s head, shoulders, elbows, wrist, palms, waist, hips, thighs, knees, and ankles are articulated. The head and feet have ball joints. The figure is more articulated to than, thanks to his transforming mechanism, however, the hanging parts get on the way, making all the articulation useless.

Plastic

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Optimus Prime consists of cheap plastics that can be broken by a child easily. Some of the parts, like the windshield and the truck’s light are in clearer plastics. It almost feels as if the front bumper and Optimus Prime’s forearms and shoulders are in diecast metal. I don’t believe the front bumper is, but the jury’s out on the other parts. That would be surprising as the figure is not heavy. However, the paint polish on the shoulders and forearms have a metallic feel. The tires and the clutch are in rubber.

Props

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The engines which are inside the truck’s hood transform into a gun.

Packaging

The figure comes in a bubble pack sitting on top of an empty cardboard box. The box is glued to the box forcing one to use scissors to open the package. Inside the box, is the transformation booklet. There are no stats or profiles on the cardboard or even promotional material inside the box. Hasbro should have put a leaflet about the other Transformers Alternators’ action figures. Larger pictures of the product in robot mode and in truck mode would have been welcomed. The booklet is not very clear in terms of transforming instructions.

Cost

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The figure costs around $20 to $25 in most stores. Large surface stores probably offer it for less.

Availability

This figure was just released and is easy to find either in specialty stores, comic book stores ordering through Diamond Comics or other specialty online stores. The Binaltech version of this figure is in diecast metal.


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